Ontario declares state of emergency as trucker protests hold major cities 'hostage'
Ontario premier Doug Ford came out swinging on Friday morning, confirming the flurry of rumours that a state of emergency would be announced due to the ongoing trucker protests known collectively as the "freedom convoy" and their continued paralytic effect on cities and supply lines across the province.
Appearing late to the podium, as usual, Ford defended vaccine mandates, saying that "there's no doubt these were the right decisions. There's no doubt they protected our hospitals from collapse and save lives."
But with an election coming up, the premier was also careful to note that province is "on track to remove nearly all restrictions for businesses as part of our reopening plan."
"People are frustrated, they're scared, they're angry, and I know these frustrations have reached a boiling point for many Canadians. The result is what we're now seeing in various cities across our province and our country," said Ford.
While defending free speech and the right to peacefully protest, the premier admitted that "rights are not without reasonable limits," calling the protests a "siege and illegal occupation" and warning that should the protests go on, "there will be consequences for these actions, and they will be severe"
After some preamble, Ford fired the shot widely expected since Thursday evening, when sources confirmed to media outlets that emergency measures would be invoked.
"I'm using my authority as premier of Ontario to declare a state of emergency in our province," said Ford, going on to describe these events as "a pivotal moment for our nation."
"The eyes of the world are upon us right now, and what they are seeing is not who we are. It's not what Canada is about. This is not how we try to change things here in Canada, we do it through the ballot box," continued Ford.
"As a nation, we must collectively draw a line," Ford warned, cautioning protesters to go home now.
Ford outlined how he will bring his cabinet together to "urgently enact" orders that underscore the illegality of protesters "to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure. This will include protecting international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways."
In addition to public roadways, these measures also include the protection of medical services, public transit, and pedestrian routes. Ford warns that "fines for non-compliance will be severe, with a maximum penalty of $100,000 and up to a year imprisonment."
Still, Ford stressed that these actions "will not impede the rights of Ontarians to peacefully protest."
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